Cross Post – A Brain Surgeon’s Long Journey Home from the Iraq War

From time to time on Neurosurgery Blog you will see us cross-posting or linking to pieces from other places when we believe they really hit the mark on an issue. Today, in honor of Memorial Day, we wanted to take the time to highlight an article which originally appeared in the Spring Congress Quarterly (cnsq) and is authored by Vivke Mehta, MD, a neurosurgery resident at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The piece sheds light on a brain surgeon’s long journey home from the Iraq War. To read the full story, click here.


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Faces: Of Our Patients – Giving Back: A Brain Aneurysm Survivor

Photo_BekelisGuest post from Kimon Bekelis, MD
Section of Neurosurgery, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Maria was a busy working mom raising two children — 18 months and four years old — when she suffered a sudden severe headache from a ruptured aneurysm. Like most patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage, the diagnosis comes unexpectedly and can carry dire consequences. Fortunately, she was able to benefit from rapid transfer to the University of Illinois Hospital, a tertiary comprehensive stroke center with a multidisciplinary neurovascular team who diagnosed an anterior communicating artery aneurysm as the cause of the bleed. Her aneurysm was surgically obliterated within hours, and she was managed through the high-risk post-surgical period — when there is the danger of vasospasm and hemorrhage — in a dedicated neurosurgical intensive care unit (NICU). She made a full recovery and was so inspired by the treatment she received that she pursued training as a nurse, and is now working in a NICU taking care of patients suffering from problems much like the one she had encountered. She has also been an active member of the Chicago Chapter of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation helping to raise awareness and supporting other brain aneurysm survivors. Timed to coincide with stroke month, here is Maria’s story in her own words.

By Maria Micheletto

My name is Maria Micheletto. I am a brain aneurysm survivor. The day I actually had my aneurysm rupture, October 23, 2006, is engrained in my mind. It was kind of a normal day. I was tired and came out of the shower and felt a thunderclap headache. I can’t even describe the pain, but it was an explosion that went down into my neck. I literally dropped to my knees because I was paralyzed from the waist down. I called 911, and the paramedics came to my house and took me to a local area hospital. The physician asked if I always have migraines. Of course, this was not a migraine; this was the worst headache of my life. He said he was going to give me a CT scan, so I went into the CT scanner and was told it would be about an hour before they would have the results. About five minutes later he came out and told my mother “we have got to get her to another hospital; she has a subarachnoid hemorrhage, and it looks like an aneurysm rupture, and we have no neurosurgeon here.” So they called a helicopter service, Flight for Life, and I was flown to UI Health, where I met Dr. Hanjani, the neurosurgeon. She took care of me, clipped my aneurysm, and quite honestly saved my life. I was taken to the NICU where I encountered so many unbelievable professionals. The nurses and residents got me through the worst time of my life.

m1After my rupture, I continued to work as a dental hygienist, but I always had this pull to become a nurse. It was something I wanted to do for a while and after my stay in the NICU and the wonderful nurses I had, it was something I felt I needed to do. I decided to take the entrance exam for Joliet Junior College. I did well and was accepted on my first attempt. This was unprecedented, and now I believe “it was meant to be.” In preparation for nursing school, I became a CNA (certified nursing assistant) and worked part-time as an aide and attended school full-time. I did this with a four and six-year-old at home. My husband and mother were amazing in their unwavering devotion to helping me achieve my success. I studied hard, went to clinical rotations, raised two kids and worked. It all came together in May of 2012 when I graduated with honors from JJC. I interviewed at St. Joseph’s Medical Center and got a job as a new graduate nurse on a medical telemetry floor. I worked there for a full year and then transferred to the Neuro Stepdown unit. I would sneak back into the NICU any chance I got. Whenever the manager was around, I would tell her how much I wanted to work in the NICU. About three months later, there was an opening in the NICU. The manager wanted someone with experience, so I was passed up. That person was hired and quit in about a week.  She hired another experienced NICU nurse and once again they left quickly. Early in the morning, after a night shift, the manager came up to me and asked if I really wanted to come to the NICU. I was so excited and nervous and of course said yes.

m2My transition to the NICU was bumpy at times, but I knew this is where I was supposed to be. Every day I work is a blessing. I cannot believe how fortunate I am to have had an incredible surgeon, Dr. Hanjani, and her fabulous NICU staff to take care of me. I know that everything happens for a reason. My rupture opened my eyes to a future that I would have never attempted. I am here to help other patients and families traverse the waters of the NICU and a life changing diagnosis. 

I am currently back in school to earn my Bachelor’s degree in nursing and hopefully a Master’s so that one day I can teach future nurses. Never give up on your dreams; you never know when they will take shape.


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Not so FAST…There is Another Stroke

bafGuest post from Christine J. Buckley
Executive Director, Brain Aneurysm Foundation

Aneurysm — a scary word, but most people think it can’t apply to them. Not so fast! Nearly one in 50 individuals in the Unites States has a brain aneurysm and every year 30,000 people will suffer a brain aneurysm rupture. This will lead to death in almost 50 percent of the cases. A ruptured brain aneurysm is the leading cause of hemorrhagic stroke. This bursting of a blood vessel in the brain and subsequent blood on the surrounding brain tissue is a life ending or changing event for many, yet there is little awareness or research around the issue.

May is Stroke Awareness Month, a crucial time where the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, the American Stroke Association and all the doctors who treat both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, work together to bring to the table the discussions necessary to raise the awareness of hemorrhagic stroke. It also serves as a time to better educate the public on the signs, symptoms and risk factors of a brain aneurysm. The Brain Aneurysm Foundation was proud to join CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Walter Koroshetz — director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) — for #StrokeTalk on May 3, 2016. This initiative — through Twitter chat — discussed stroke risk factors and served to educate a broad audience about strokes of all kinds and what causes them. The FAST campaign — Face, Arm, Speech and Time — has been an outstanding initiative to ensure rapid recognition and intervention for ischemic stroke. A parallel effort for hemorrhagic stroke and brain aneurysms is more challenging. The symptoms can often be vague and subtle and easily associated with something less devastating such as ear infection (otitis media), the flu or a migraine. But when that “worst headache of your life” hits, your world is turned upside down. In the best case, you wake up in a hospital bed with loved ones at your side being told that you have been treated for a brain aneurysm. Maybe you cannot see, maybe you cannot talk or walk and maybe you do not remember the not so distant past. But you are alive, your future is changed and your new normal awaits you. This does not have to be the case.

The following are coming together to raise awareness and provide public service education:

  • The medical community treating brain aneurysms;
  • American Stroke Association;
  • Members of the AANS and CNS; and
  • Brain Aneurysm Foundation’s advocacy efforts (provided pro bono by the firm of Arnold & Porter).

This collaboration will also seek the highest levels of funding for hemorrhagic stroke and brain aneurysms. We will strive to increase early detection of brain aneurysms so there can be treatment before a rupture occurs. Just as advocates of ischemic stroke have worked diligently to save lives and promote the signs and symptoms of this devastating condition — doing so with great success — we must take a page from their playbook and not turn a blind eye to the “other stroke.”

baf2On May 11, 2016, the Brain Aneurysm Foundation went to Capitol Hill requesting September be designated National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month. We also advocated for increased research funding for brain aneurysms, a subset of stroke. The Senate did pass a resolution, S. Res. 438, establishing September as the awareness month, and we are still rallying the House of Representatives to pass the same resolution, H. Res. 667. But greater still we are working with Senate and House champions on the Hill to increase governmental funding of brain aneurysm research as the level is entirely insufficient as highlighted  below.

Despite the widespread prevalence of this condition, the federal government only spends $0.83 per year on brain aneurysm research for each person affected by the disease. The federal government spends far more on many medical conditions with similar numbers of deaths each year. 


Please join us this May in support of Stroke Awareness Month and remember there is “another stroke!”

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation is the globally recognized leader in brain aneurysm awareness, education, support, advocacy and research funding. We are a resource for you and your patients. Working together, we benefit our patients. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Posted in Emergency Care, Guest Post, Health, Stroke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |